Chez Omar Leftovers
Prior to Paris, my only encounter with couscous involved boxes of pre-seasoned mixes. I didn't understand its appeal - it wasn't rice or pasta, but somewhere in between. What did you serve with it? As far as I knew, there weren't many (if any) couscous restaurants in the Bay Area. The few recipes I scanned usually included raisins, and I don't like raisins. I prefer my grapes off the vine or in a bottle!
So hearing about all these couscous places in Paris aroused my curiosity, made me wonder what I was missing. I kept hearing about Chez Omar in the 3ème, but plans to go there always seemed thwarted.
Then I was handed a plate of couscous and stewed lamb at the Chocolate & Zucchini party. What a revelation! The lamb stew at L'Homme Tranquille reminded me of Chinese beef stew, tender and juicy with a flavorful broth. The couscous soaked it all up and took on a character of its own. As always, Clotilde's choice in food amazed me. I fell in love with couscous.
Going to Chez Omar last night deepened the relationship. Strange and flirty waiter aside, it was a nice change from refined French food. Cindy and & I ordered Royal (24€) and Poulet (15€) couscous. Royal is a big mess of meat- roast lamb, grilled lamb, merguez sausage, stewed lamb. Poulet was just that - simple pieces of roast chicken. The couscous and stewed vegetables were served family-style, huge platters and bowls that they kept refilling until we conceded defeat. Everything was humbly delicious.
Unfortunately, even two culinary students could not finish the pile of meat laid before us. I'd say we got through half of it before stopping. Leaving food on your plate is apparently not acceptable in Paris - I think it was the owner or manager who stopped by twice to make sure we were okay, sending worried glances our way because our plates weren't clean. We had to convince him that everything was fine and tasty.
The restaurant felt like a bistro and got crowded quickly, as they don't take reservations. I'd never seen another restaurant in Paris filled up by 7:30! Another element in its favor was the glassed-in non-smoking section. "Welcome to the non-smoking club," a sign on the wall said.
I love it when foods I previously disregarded come alive and enter my food repertoire. I promise to post on L'As du Falafal soon, another such discovery in the Marais that blew me away.
But for every discovery comes a disappointment. Baguettes that are pale brown and squishy. Dry brioche. A British pub that makes nachos with Doritos. Enough said.
81 Rue des Martyrs
Tel 01 42 54 56 28
47 Rue de Bretagne
Paris, France 75003
Tel 01 42 72 36 26
Metro: Filles du Calvaires